Bakdash civil suit delayed by criminal case

Victim Sarah Bagley filed a personal injury suit.

by Kaitlin Walker

A delay in the criminal trial against Timothy Bakdash is hindering a civil lawsuit filed by one of the University of Minnesota students injured when Bakdash allegedly drove into a group of pedestrians in Dinkytown.

In September, Sarah Bagley filed a personal injury suit against Timothy Bakdash and his mother, Diane Bakdash, for the long-term injuries she sustained in the crash April 15, 2011.

Bagley’s lawyer, Peter Riley, said she is asking for an excess of $50,000 to cover medical bills and future loss of income due to injuries to her knee and jaw. She also broke a tooth and is dealing with vertigo.

“The thing we’re most concerned about is the knee in a young person like her,” Riley said.

Timothy Bakdash was driving the wrong way down the one-way Fifth Street Southeast when he allegedly drove up onto the sidewalk, striking four pedestrians, injuring three.

Ben Van Handel was in a coma for five days after the accident, dying April 21 after being taken off life support.

Katelynn Hanson, another victim, was later released from the hospital after CT scans showed no damage.

Bagley underwent knee surgery.

In the weeks following the accident, police announced Bakdash had intentionally targeted the group, thinking they were the same people he had been in an argument with earlier at the Library Bar and Grill.

Timothy Bakdash now faces a first-degree murder charge and two first-degree attempted murder charges.

The criminal trial was recently rescheduled from Nov. 14 to Feb. 21, 2012, and is expected to last about three weeks.

Diane Bakdash was originally charged as an accessory in Van Handel’s death for allegedly advising her son to sell the car involved, but the charge was later dropped.

But Bagley’s civil suit is against both mother and son. Diane Bakdash let Timothy Bakdash drive her car and is thus liable under the Safety Responsibility Act, Riley said. The Safety Responsibility Act states that a person who drives a motor vehicle with the express or implied consent of its owner is deemed to be the owner’s agent in case of an accident.

But the suit has hit a roadblock, Riley said, because on Oct. 7, both Timothy and Diane Bakdash filed a motion with the court to postpone the civil case investigation until after the criminal trial is completed.

Timothy Bakdash’s lawyer, Nicholas Klehr, said in the motion that the delay is necessary to protect his client’s Fifth Amendment rights. By defending himself in one case, Timothy Bakdash could potentially incriminate himself in the other.

Meanwhile, the charges against Diane Bakdash have been dropped “without prejudice,” according to the motion, which means she can still be charged in connection to the crash in the future and also risks incriminating herself while the criminal case is ongoing.

But the delay is causing frustration to Bagley and her lawyer.

“We’re being stymied by [Timothy Bakdash’s] lawyers who don’t allow us to get his testimony,” Riley said. “They’re fighting us at every turn of our trying to find out the facts of how this happened, and that is a major roadblock at this point.”

Depositions — under-oath questioning by prosecution and defense lawyers — were originally scheduled for early December, Riley said, but will most likely be rescheduled after a meeting with the judge next week.

Riley said it’s hard to tell how long the case might take.

“I don’t know when I’m going to be able to move ahead,” Riley said. “But then when I move ahead, I don’t know what I’m going to learn.”

Riley said they are looking into involving the Library in the suit, depending on the information gathered during discovery. Timothy Bakdash disclosed to the judge that he had been served about 15 drinks, Riley said, and therefore the bar may be liable for the resulting crash.

Riley said the only information he is officially privy to is where Timothy Bakdash was drinking that night and whether he was claiming that a defect in the car caused the accident. Until the judge allows them to move forward, Riley said “we’re kind of stuck in neutral.”